Gaeng khiaw waan maae
1) First prepare the ingredients for the paste. Chop each piece into fine bits, to make the pounding easier. Roast the peppercorns on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until fragrant.
2) In a stone mortar & pestle, start with the lemongrass, and pound until it`s a paste. Then add the lime peel and galangal, and pound until paste.
3) Add the cilantro roots, salt, peppercorns, and pound until paste.
4) Add chilies and garlic, and pound until paste.
5) Add shrimp paste (if adding), and pound until mixed. Set your finished curry paste aside. Mom likes the curry paste to be somewhat gritty, so don`t worry about making a perfect uniform paste.
6) Separate the coconut cream from the milk, and put into two separate bowls, and prepare all of your ingredients. *
This recipe is for fresh-pressed coconut milk. In Thailand, many cooks press their own milk. The first press is called the `head` and the second the `tail`. The head is creamier and is used to fry the curry paste, while the tail is thinner and added later.
If you`re not in the mood to press your own coconut milk, canned coconut milk from Thailand is a fine substitute. I recommend Chao Koh or Mae Ploy brands. Do not shake the can like they recommend. Instead, carefully open and use the cream at the top to fry the paste in. Then fry your meat, and add the rest a little at a time until it`s all added.
Refrigerating coconut milk will make the cream separate even better.
Do not use brands of coconut milk which are homogenized. They taste funny, and if you can`t fry the paste in the oils of the cream, the curry will not taste as good.
1) Throw 1/2 of your coconut cream (head) into the hot pan. It should sizzle and boil like mad. Let it do this for about 20 seconds, then add all the curry paste.
2) Keep stirring the curry paste so it doesn`t burn or stick to the pan. If it dries out to much, gradually add more of the coconut cream to the pan, little by little. You want to cook the paste for about 2-3 minutes, until it`s really fragrant and you sneeze. Not joking. You will sneeze. The ingredients inside the paste cook at different speeds, and when the chilies start to cook, the air gets spicy. That`s when it`s done.
3) Add some more coconut cream and the meat or tofu. Keep stirring until cooked through, and make sure your paste doesn`t burn or stick to the pan. Keep adding coconut cream to slightly `boil` the paste, not so much `dry fry` it. If you run out of cream, start to use milk. If using beef, you`ll need to cook for much longer, until the beef gets tender. If tofu, just a minute to get the flavor through.
4) Add all the coconut milk and boil for a minute or two. Then add the eggplants and lime leaves.
5) Boil 1 minute, then add the basil, stir and serve. You may want to garnish with bits of basil to make it look pretty.
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